The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > General Questions

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 05-08-2011, 10:32 PM
WarmNPrickly WarmNPrickly is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 1999
What is there to taking care of guinea fowl?

I have been told by several people that the best way to control ticks on our property is to get some guinea fowl. I'm willing to give that a shot. We have about 10acres to take care of. How many do I need? Will they take care of he whole property, or will they just stay near the house? What do I feed them? Do they more or less take care of themselves?
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 05-08-2011, 11:06 PM
aruvqan aruvqan is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: Eastern Connecticut
Posts: 15,577
They are hyperactive little bug eating maniacs ... and a lot of fun to own and watch.

You need a coop for them to spend the night in. They like to perch, so instead of lots of nest boxes like chickens, you only need one or 2 nesting boxes, and perches. Put their coop inside a 10x10 chain link fenced yard, with a roof of chicken mesh. This will keep them safe at night from predators like owls and coons.

Put a poultry waterer and a feeder inside the coop - always keep the waterer full, but generally only feed them at night. They will return to the coop at night for the munchies.

Let them out of the fenced yard during the day, they will happily run around eating bugs and bits of plants, scratch around. They also fly short distances quite well, as in up to my roof, where they run around sounding like a tiny herd of buffalos... I have no idea how a 5 pound bird can tromp so loudly on a roof @_@

They happily eat chicken pellets, and scrounge around for grit to do the crop digesting thing. We toss emptied eggshells out for all the birds to eat to suppliment the calcium for eggshells.

They are a pretty low maintenance bug eating critter. They really are excellent at scritching up grubs that turn into those damned beetles that like to hover at the corners of houses, and are funny to watch chasing moths off the front porch in the morning.

Forgot to add that I buy from Murray McMurray, and I think the smallest order of the little buggers is either 25 or 30. Just get the generic assortment. You will have to brood them inside where it is warm for a month or so until they are both fully feathered and the weather outside is warm enough for them. They have about a 1 acre or so range, they will stay within about an acre or perhaps 2 at the most of their coop. They like to scurry around, and then snuggle under shrubs for a while, then run around more. They are loud and screechy, but it is a sort of homey sound - lets you know they are around.

Last edited by aruvqan; 05-08-2011 at 11:10 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 05-08-2011, 11:17 PM
johnpost johnpost is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
the fence around their enclosure needs to be buried into the ground to prevent predators from digging under.

other method is to make a dwelling on wheels or skids. the whole unit has chicken wire on all six sides.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 05-08-2011, 11:18 PM
MikeS MikeS is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: New London, CT
Posts: 3,345
You might find Mark Bowden's two articles from Atlantic Monthly about his guinea fowl of interest, or at least entertaining: The Great Guinea Hen Massacre (December 2009) and Rebirth of the Guinea Hens (March 2011).
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 05-08-2011, 11:22 PM
WhyNot WhyNot is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
They are great for all the reasons mentioned, but they're also the dumbest birds next to chickens. I highly suggest not putting them near your driveway, or you're going to be honking your horn to no avail in an effort to shoo them from the front of your car.

My dad was moving gravel around on his driveway and on more than one occasion ended up accidentally scooping a guinea hen with the bucket of his frontloader because they were too stupid to move.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 05-08-2011, 11:36 PM
Blake Blake is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Posts: 10,207
First off, guinea fowl are no better at control ticks than are chickens. It's not like guinea fowl are tick specialists or something. So my advice is to get some bantam chickens (game type, not ornamentals). That way you also get eggs, and they are much cheaper (~$1 each as opposed to ~$10).

As for how many guinea fowl, for a 10 acre block between 6 and a dozen. Less than 6 and they start to become really vulnerable to predators and less inclined to wander. More than 12 and they will be inclined to make a hell of a mess of their preferred foraging areas.

How much if the block they will cover depends on a lot of factors, including weather, what the food supply is like and the vegetation cover. They will happily several wander miles a day if the mood takes them, but if the weather is damp or the vegetation is too thick they will tend to confine themselves to favoured areas. I would not bet on them regularly covering more than 200 metres from the house.

They will work for chicken feed, literally. Wheat or cracked corn is fine. If you are worried there aren't enough insects and rodents for them to eat then you can supplement the grain with either commercial "layer pellets" or simply use table scraps including any meat leftovers. Like chickens, they are much more carnivorous than most people think and will happily pick bones clean or devour entire raw steaks.

They are neither more nor less work than chickens. They are a bit more resistant to some predators than bantams because they are a bit bigger, however the difference is slight, and a hawk or dog will make a meal of them with ease. They are frankly a pain in the arse if you live in an area with feral cats or large snakes because they resent roosting and especially nesting in enclosures. Unlike chickens it takes a lot of effort to train them to come in at night and they prefer to roost in trees. This can be overcome by placing the chicks with a few chickens, so they become part of the chicken flock. However that may wear off as the birds get older, especially if their are more guinea fowl than chickens.

While they are often praised for being more resistant to predators than chickens, I have never seen any convincing evidence that it is true. I have run chickens in rural areas with minimal losses, and I have known plenty of people who have lost guinea fowl to predators. One big difference is that replacing chickens is simple and free. In contrast guinea fowl chicks are notoriously fragile, to the point that single shower of rain will kill the whole clutch.

They are also very noisy. They raise a hell of a racket when disturbed. The flock also has a single dominant cock, and if you have more than one cock he will call incessantly during the breeding season, literally from dawn to dusk. We ended up eating two males because we could not suffer the noise, and we made sure to cull all males before the breeding season. So if you get a flock make sure you get them sexed by someone who knows how, or else be prepared to cull half of them.

I still think that you would be much better off with chickens.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 05-09-2011, 08:24 AM
FasterThanMeerkats FasterThanMeerkats is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Also note:

- There are no insects to eat in the winter, but your guinea hens will still need to be taken care of (watered & fed) no matter how crappy the weather is. If you have a child this is moot as it becomes one of their character-building chores.

- They like sitting (and crapping) on porch rails and pretty much everything else.

- As Blake noted, they don't tend to roam a lot, so I doubt you'd cover the entire 10 acres. And even if they did they'd just be more susceptible to predation.

- You will definitely need a coop as others have noted, and even so, will probably still lose a few to predators.

How many ticks are you getting that you need birds to eat them? Are you just rolling around in the grass all day?
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 05-09-2011, 01:57 PM
WarmNPrickly WarmNPrickly is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 1999
Quote:
Originally Posted by FasterThanMeerkats View Post
Also note:

- There are no insects to eat in the winter, but your guinea hens will still need to be taken care of (watered & fed) no matter how crappy the weather is. If you have a child this is moot as it becomes one of their character-building chores.
Perfect! My daughter turns three very soon. That should build their character just fine.
Quote:
- They like sitting (and crapping) on porch rails and pretty much everything else.

- As Blake noted, they don't tend to roam a lot, so I doubt you'd cover the entire 10 acres. And even if they did they'd just be more susceptible to predation.
Good enough. If we put the coop near the garden, they should get the most critical areas. Theoretically, we could put it in the garden. I suspect the predators would make quick work of our deer fence though. It's still another layer of protection.
Quote:
- You will definitely need a coop as others have noted, and even so, will probably still lose a few to predators.

How many ticks are you getting that you need birds to eat them? Are you just rolling around in the grass all day?
The ticks are insane. Right now, I get a few everyone I'm out. I don't mind treating the front yard, but we just have too much area to get everything that we really need.

How will they be with our veggie garden? Will they eat all the good stuff? I've been thinking of starting a beehive. Will this be a conflict?

The farm I was at Saturday told me to get full grown guineas. They said the survival rate of the young was way too low. I thought that was interesting.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 05-09-2011, 04:15 PM
janeslogin janeslogin is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
When I was a kid an uncle with whom I spent a lot of time had guinea foul. I do remember that the survival rate of the young was low. That they were desired because they ate lots of insects. This uncle also had bee hives and I don't recall any mention of conflicts.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 05-09-2011, 10:54 PM
Blake Blake is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Posts: 10,207
Quote:
Originally Posted by WarmNPrickly View Post
How will they be with our veggie garden? Will they eat all the good stuff?
They don't really eat raw vegetables, but they do scratch, just like chickens. Freshly turned soil attracts them

Quote:
I've been thinking of starting a beehive. Will this be a conflict?
Shouldn't be.

Quote:
The farm I was at Saturday told me to get full grown guineas.
Not a good idea. Firstly they are going to be nearly impossible to train. Secondly they will be inclined to wander off. Since this isn't their home territory they will tend to move around until they find somewhere that they like to settle down. It's even money that they will end up living on your neighbour's block.

Quote:
They said the survival rate of the young was way too low.
The survival rate is low for very young birds if they get wet. Even a heavy dew will kill them. But you are better off getting chicks and raising them in a crate for a few weeks than testing your luck with adult birds.

Really, buying adult guinea fowl is like buying adult cats. Maybe they will stick around, maybe they won't.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 05-12-2011, 02:22 AM
Bad News Baboon Bad News Baboon is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2001
My mom had some. I can't tell you much about raising them but I can tell you they are annoyingly noisy.
Reply With Quote
Reply



Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 08:29 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.